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LETTER: Who owns who we are?

Letter to the editor

To the editor,

A recent report that a consortium has spent years helping to preserve the Lakota language should be a positive story, but the truth is that the knowledge has been copyrighted and is available to the Lakota people for a cost.

How can anyone own a culture, especially when they are not a member of the cultural group? Many cultures have a story keeper, but their main role is as a storyteller so that the stories and cultural information are preserved and spread, not locked away.

The theft of culture is nothing new. The British Museum has the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon and although opinions vary as to whether they were stolen, collected or taken for preservation they are not British properties and attempts to have them returned have been unsuccessful.

A number of Aboriginal remains were taken from the area of Lake Mingo, New South Wales, Australia, and kept in the Australian Natural Museum and were eventually returned to the traditional custodians of the land and reburied but not without concerns about this action. As an experiment a number of fake bones were left around the site in 2014 and within a few weeks most of them had been stolen.

Culture must be preserved and not owned so we can know where we have come from and use this to guide us to where we should go to in the future.

Dennis Fitzgerald

Melbourne, Australia

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